I’m hearing a lot about this week’s announcement that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene. The claim was made by the controversial Harvard University Professor Karen King. Let me say that magazine’s breathless enthusiasm for the news about the piece of paper can only injure its reputation with this kind of sensationalism.
The New York Times described the fragment as “smaller than a business card, with eight lines on one side, in black ink legible under a magnifying glass.” The lines are all fragmentary, with the third line reading “deny. Mary is worthy of it,” and the next reading “Jesus said to them, ‘My wife.’” The fifth line reads, “she will be able to be my disciple.”
The papyrus fragment, believed to be from the fourth century, was delivered to Professor King by an anonymous source who secured the artifact from a German-American dealer – who bought it years ago from a source in East Germany. News reports claim the fragment is believed to be an authentic, although two of three authorities originally consulted by the editors of the Harvard Theological Review expressed doubts.
The media has instantly transformed this as “proof” that Jesus had a wife, and that she was most likely Mary Magdalene. Professor King will bear personal responsibility for most of this over-reaching. In fact, she has called the fragment nothing less than “The Gospel of Jesus’ Wife” — a title The Boston Globe rightly deemed “provocative.” That same paper reported that Professor King decided to publicize her findings before additional tests could verify the fragment’s authenticity because she “feared word could leak out about its existence in a way that sensationalized its meaning.” Seriously? King was so concerned about avoiding sensationalism that she titled the fragment “The Gospel of Jesus’ Wife?”
The bottom line to all this is simple; anyone who believes something like this should come to church with me Sunday. I’ll introduce you to a real messenger if God who need not sensationalize stories about Jesus.